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Author Archive: "Wendy Jehanara Tremayne"

They Had a Broken Keyboard; I Bought a Broken Keyboard: Thrift, the New Museum

When I was a kid, each year my parents loaded my brother and me into a tiny car and hauled us to Florida's Disney World. I spent the days that followed singing the theme song to the ride "It's a Small World" while my family tried to plug their ears or drown me out by turning up the car radio. No trip was complete without a trinket — something to say we'd been there. One year I got a pink plastic figurine of Tinkerbell and a curious hat with ears on it. These items, though utterly commodified representations of a false world built on the bounty of a real one, contain a kind of magic. They remind. The unusual color and feel of the plastic Tinkerbell figurine remains unforgettable to me.

Today I make a new kind of pilgrimage when I travel. I visit thrift shops and yard sales that offer me interesting windows into cultures not my own. If urban and suburban landscapes had not been taken over by homogenous strip malls of national franchises, I might not be so drawn to these suburban curiosity windows. But ...

Make Good

For seven years Mikey and I have been exploring a few pledges. We pledged to no longer make decisions based on money, to live from waste and from nature (both are free!), to make all our goods instead of buy them, and to share what we learn with others to keep knowledge free and open.

The pledges have led us to discover new ways to explore the world. We discovered an abundant life in which materials and knowledge come free of charge. June marks the start of a book tour. We're out promoting my new book, The Good Life Lab. The same pledges we made while living in New Mexico continue to guide us toward an abundant life even while on the road.

Our tour includes visiting bookstores, Maker Faires, hacker spaces, fab labs, and tech shops. At each stop we meet makers of all variety, people working with metal, wood, plants, glass, food, technology, and textiles. It is easy to notice that makers have a different view of the world than buyers of things. For one thing, makers know materials because they have to source them, ...

Wildcrafting the Northwest

Wildcrafting in Washington

Mikey and are looking forward to hiking the Northwest in search of wild edible plants. Wildcrafting is our favorite way to explore a new place. When we head out into nature, we know we'll have an adventure, gain knowledge, and if we're lucky, acquire food or medicine that will last a winter or two. Unlike the goods for sale in the mall, those found in nature are free and so is the adventure. The knowledge obtained while having the adventure is priceless.

While in the Northwest, we hope to find plants that are not available to us where we live in the Chihuahuan Desert. Osha, for example (a.k.a. wild lovage or bear medicine), is a mountain plant that likes moist soil rich in organic material. There is little chance of it popping up in the dry caliche floor of the desert we live in. Osha resembles poison hemlock and so it must be carefully verified before consumed. Osha's pungent, celery-like smell can be used to verify it as authentic. Wildcrafters are well served by knowing the circumstances surrounding the plant. For example, bears, who use the plant to help them awaken from a winter of hibernation, can often be found hanging out near osha (thus one of the plant's nicknames).

Handsome Little Box Makes a Hearty Cup of Joe on the Road

Roasting coffee in a popcorn maker

Seven years of homesteading have shown me that most of life is spent on domestic issues related to food and drink. Mikey and I savor the details when it comes to figuring out how to get the greatest amount of pleasure from food. We are coffee lovers and admit to consuming heroic doses of caffeine. On the road, caffeine keeps us alert and safe. A mighty cup of Joe can even produce blasts of creative inspiration and epiphanies. We devised what we believe to be a near-perfect travel kit and system for making hot- and cold-brewed java while traveling.

GEAR: One super-cute, avocado-green, vintage, plastic, shoe-box-size fishing tackle box (50 cents at yard sale) contains: AeroPress for making single cups of coffee ($25 new), metal thermometer (50 cents at yard sale), Hario hand-crank coffee grinder ($30 new), TDS meter for testing water ($20), long sundae spoon for stirring (50 cents at yard sale), coffee beans roasted at home* using a Poppery II popcorn popper from a yard sale (beans $5/lb, roaster $2).


Dodging Sysco

Setting out on a month-long road trip to the northwestern United States to promote my new book, The Good Life Lab, Mikey and I wondered, How do homesteaders uphold a food standard while traveling?

Driving from New Mexico to Washington

We remember an afternoon we spent at a café on Avenue B on the Lower East Side of Manhattan where we sipped coffee and tapped away at our laptop keyboards. From the corner patio table we noticed the driver of a Sysco truck making a food delivery to a run-down deli. When he was finished, he crossed the street and walked two storefronts further down to deliver the same food to a fancy, expensive health food restaurant. Witnessing this was like having a piano dropped on our heads. We realized that food eaten out is all the same. No matter how it has been dressed up, unless produce is certified organic, it can be assumed to contain pesticides and/or be genetically modified. And conventional meats are heavy with hormones that affect our own. Most of the conventional food we eat comes ...

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